1A Auto Video Library
Our how-to videos have helped repair over 100 million vehicles.

Top 5 Problems Ford Explorer Sport Trac SUV 1st Gen 2001-05

Share on:

Created on: 2020-09-28

This video shows you the top problems with the 1st generation Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

Hey, friends. It's Len from 1A Auto. Today we've got another top five problems for you. This one is gonna be on a gen one Ford Explorer Sport Trac. The generation is gonna go from 2001 to 2005. With that said, let's get started.

Okay. Friends, for our first problem, we're gonna start sitting right inside the vehicle. What we're gonna be looking at is right up here, and that's the dash gauge cluster. A lot of times what happens on these is you might happen to notice that the gauge cluster turns on and off by itself. That's gonna happen when the key isn't even in the on position. What you might also notice when this is happening is the radio is gonna do the same. It's gonna flicker on and off. And like I said, the key is not even in the on position for this when it happens. Some of the reasons why this might happen is there might be an issue with your wiring that leads to the back of the cluster, whether it's a break in the wire or a break in a couple of the wires where they're connecting or maybe grounding out onto something that's gonna, of course, cause electrical issues and you might notice that this happens.

Otherwise, what you might happen to notice is that there's an issue with the actual back of the gauge cluster, where the pins that the connector from the wiring is supposed to go into are either broken, pinned over, or even missing. If that's the case, what of course you would have to do is to replace the gauge cluster on the back if you can't repair the pins, and then of course you would move along from there. But generally speaking, if you're having this issue, it's usually either due to the wires having an issue, maybe a mouse guard in the house, or even like I said, the back of the cluster has a problem with the pins and it can either be corrected by fixing it, or it would have to be replaced overall.

Now, for our second problem, we're gonna continue on to a long/hard start of your vehicle. What I mean by that is you take your key, you put it in the ignition and you go to start it. Maybe the engine tries to turn over, [vocalization], and then finally it kicks on and then, of course, your engine is running. Overall when you turn your key, it should start pretty much immediately if not within the first second or so. With this case scenario, it's gonna take a couple more seconds than what it should, and it might make you a little bit nervous. Now, the most common cause for this would be a fuel rail pressure sensor. So, that of course would be the first place that I would check. The other possible causes for this could potentially be a bad ignition coil or even the engine crank sensor. Now, since I said that the most common issue for this would be the fuel rail pressure sensor, the first thing I would like to check is the fuel pressure itself. You're gonna need one of these gauges and you're gonna have to hook it up to your fuel system.

Once you've done that, what you would wanna do is put the key in the on position and you wanna watch that gauge to see how fast it comes up to its maximum level of pressure. If it comes up a little bit slow, more than likely you have a blockage someplace or you have an issue where it's not building up enough pressure. You could even potentially have a little bit of a leak. Speaking of a leak though, if you did happen to notice that that pressure came shooting up and then maybe you waited 5, 10, 15 minutes and you saw that needle go boop, boop, boop, boop, start dropping down, especially if it went down fast, that's gonna tell you that you have an issue with the fuel pressure regulator.

Obviously, it would be helpful to know where the fuel pressure is supposed to be at for this. So, of course, you'd wanna check your manual and find out where the actual fuel pressure is supposed to be at per the manufacturer's original design. If the fuel pressure, when you just turn the key and you had it in the on position without starting was very low or too low to actually start the vehicle, well then, of course, you're gonna have an issue. If for some reason there was an issue with the regulator and the pressure was going down and it lost its prime to the fuel injectors up at the engine, well, of course, you're gonna have a long crank because the fuel pump is gonna have to pump pressure all the way up to those injectors again. So, you're gonna notice a long, [vocalization], and then it might pick up.

Now, once you're sure that that's all up to spec the way that it should be, of course, you wanna start the vehicle and run it, and you're gonna watch that fuel pressure still, and make sure it's right up to spec where it's supposed to be. You also wanna make sure that you have a vacuum going down to that sensor because if it's not getting the proper amount of vacuum, it's not gonna be able to function properly. It might also be helpful if you have access to a scanner of some sort, that way there you'll be able to graph the information to be able to find out if you have too high or even too low of fuel pressure with the scanner.

Now, for the third problem on this vehicle, I'm gonna talk about the blend door actuator. Some of the symptoms that you might happen to notice is when you take your temperature gauge, assuming you have a manual gauge, then you go to switch it from cold all the way over to hot, you might hear a little thumping, a ticking, or even a clunking noise coming from behind your dash. Other things you might happen to notice if you're having a blend door actuator issue is maybe you just go ahead and turn it, and for some reason, the heat is still coming out of the vents and it hasn't actually switched to cold if you're switching from hot to cold or vice versa. If you happen to notice it makes that clunking noise when you move your temperature gauge right here, more than likely it's due to the fact that either your actuator itself, which is located behind here like I said or even the housing where the blend door is is cracked.

If you have a crack in the plastic, it's gonna of course cause an issue where the two parts aren't gonna be able to mesh perfectly, and the actuator might be functioning and turning the way that it should, but the blend door is actually skipping inside of the groove for the blend door. Of course, if the plastic is broken on either the actuator or, of course, the blend door mechanism, you're gonna have an issue where the two pieces aren't actually copacetic anymore. And of course, one piece is gonna be able to spin outside of the other, and it's not gonna be able to push that blend door the way that it needs to. Another reason why that might actually happen and the crack might happen is maybe something fell inside one of your vents, maybe you have some children or anything like that, or you keep stuff up on your dash. If anything was to fall inside the vents and make its way down inside the venting, it could actually bind up that blend door. So, even though this is doing its job and it's telling the actuator to go ahead and move it from hot to cold, the blend door inside is actually stuck on something such as maybe a pencil or a toy or anything else.

Aside from a cracked plastic issue or even a binding issue, you might find that you have a power issue. If for some reason the actuator isn't getting the power that it needs to be able to switch this like it's supposed to, of course, it's not gonna be able to function right. So, of course, you wanna make sure you check your fuses to make sure everything is going right there. And of course, make sure there's power going to that actuator. Now, to get to your actuators/blend door, it's not gonna be the easiest thing to do. What you're gonna need to do is get all this completely out of the way, and then to get to the actuator, it's gonna be located up and behind this area of the dash in the center. And then once you get to that point, of course, you wanna check for power. You'd wanna disconnect that connector from the actual actuator, and you wanna make sure there's no corrosion or anything funny going on with that. Then of course remove the actuator from the unit, plug it back in and retry it. Make sure that the actuator is working the way that it should. Also, while you have it out, it couldn't hurt to, of course, take a peek to make sure you don't see any obstructions where the blend door is supposed to be. And then, of course, go from there.

Now, for the fourth problem that I wanna talk about on these vehicles involves the 4.0 engines. If you were to look right over here in the front of the engine, you're gonna find the thermostat housing. Symptoms of a coolant leak, of course, would be if you have a sweet smell in the air. Another symptom might be you have moisture around some of your coolant parts, maybe even a little puddle on the ground. Sometimes when you have a coolant leak, you don't even really see a puddle, but you definitely know something is going on because like I said, you can smell it and maybe you even notice that you have an overheating condition. And of course, your coolant could just be low in general. When it comes time to fixing it, one of the first things that I would like to try to do is to pressure test the system, especially if I can't physically see a leak anywhere. All you do is you'd, of course, open up your radiator, assuming that it's nice and cold, and then you'd hook up your pressure tester to it and pump it right up to approximately 15 to 16 PSI. Then let it sit. Watch that gauge. If it seems like it goes right up, that's great.

And then if it seems like it drops down, well, that means, of course, you're losing pressure. If you're losing pressure, it must be going somewhere, and it's probably more than likely an external leak, especially on this vehicle, which would be the thermostat housing right there. The reason why the thermostat housing tends to leak is because it's plastic and it cracks over time. It's super common for these and Ford actually updated it to a metal housing instead. So, of course, what you would wanna do is drain out the cooling system, flush out the cooling system, replace the part that needs to be replaced, which is this whole unit right along there, and then, of course, you would go ahead and fill it up with the manufacturer-specified fluid. Repressurize the system and you should be good to go.

Okay. Now, the fifth problem on this particular vehicle involves the front wheel bearings. Some of the symptoms that you might happen to notice if you have worn or bad bearings in the front would be a growling noise as you spin the wheel or even driving down the road. Maybe you're driving down the road and you happen to hear, [vocalization], you turn the wheel a little bit, maybe the noise gets a little less [vocalization], turn it the other way, [vocalization], even worse. Generally, what that means is if you have a growl noise coming from the front and it changes with either speed or, of course, the turning of the vehicle, that's telling you that you have an issue with your wheel bearing. Another symptom that you might happen to notice if you have a really bad wheel bearing would be a clunking, either in the 12 and 6 position if you're moving it like this, or even 3 and 9. If the wheel can do this, or even like this, you know you more than likely have an issue with your wheel bearing. Of course, you'd wanna check out the rest of your front end as well to make sure you don't have an issue with the ball joint, upper or lower, or even the tie rod. But more than likely if it goes all four ways like that, you have an issue with the wheel bearings, or you might happen to notice when you're driving down the road, you have to do this a little bit with your steering wheel because the steering feels a little loose.

So, some of the causes for this would be the fact that the wheel bearings were actually made to be manually adjustable, as opposed to being a sealed unit. With it being that way, there's supposed to be a seal that's on the backside of that rotor that's gonna hold the moisture from getting into where the bearings are. And it's also gonna help keep the grease into where the bearings are. If, of course, the seal is in poor condition and it's letting moisture in or grease out, you're gonna find that you have an issue with those bearings. Also, like I said, with the bearings being manually adjusted, they have a nut that's right on the front side there. If that's out of adjustment and is not putting enough pressure on the bearings, you're gonna have some movement. You might happen to notice this after you replace your bearings and you pack them full of grease and then you go ahead and put everything back together with a nice new seal as you should, you go ahead and tighten up that nut. You don't wanna make it very tight because, of course, you don't wanna bind anything up.

But you make it perfectly tight, it's adjusted the way that it should be, you put your cotter pin back in there, you put your cover on, you put the wheel back on, you take it for a road test, seems fine. You drive maybe a month or so, you're driving down the road, you start hearing a little bit of noise again, maybe even a clunk over bumps, what's going on? I just fixed my wheel bearing. You jack it back up, you take that wheel bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. Well, the reason for that is pretty common. When you go to adjust the nut, especially when you just packed brand new grease inside the rotor, as the grease starts to heat up, it's gonna start to liquefy a little bit, and it's gonna maybe smush in. When that happens, the bearings are gonna be able to press further together and the nut isn't gonna be as tight as what it was, and then you're gonna notice that movement. So, it's gonna need readjustment.

If you happen to notice that the seal on the backside there was damaged and you had moisture getting in, you're probably also gonna notice that there's damage to your bearings. You'll probably also notice that there's damage to your bearing... If you can do this with your wheel back and forth, more than likely you've done some pretty good damage to your bearings. Also, if there isn't enough grease inside there to lubricate the bearings as they're spinning around with the wheel, they're gonna overheat and you're also gonna notice damage. When I say damage, essentially what I mean is if you had the bearing out, you have it nice and clean, you could take the bearing and the cage and rattle it around like this, it's supposed to move a little, but it's not supposed to move a lot of it.

If you're just servicing your bearings and you happen to notice that the bearings themselves are scored due to maybe overheating or less lubricity than what should have been in there, possibly even a little bit of debris getting in, more than likely it's a good idea to just go ahead and replace those bearings. When you replace them, you don't wanna just put grease all around them and hope that that's good enough, you actually have to pack the grease right into the bearings. They sell a little cup that you can press it in there and it's gonna fill those bearings up for you. Also, not just that, but when you're putting in the bearings, you wanna make sure that there's a good amount of grease inside the center area, between the bearings inside the rotor. You don't wanna put too much because, of course, it could make an issue where the bearing isn't gonna be able to force its way in far enough. And as you tighten it, you might think that the nut is tight, but it really isn't. And then, of course, when you drive down the road, the grease makes its way out, and then that wheel is gonna be able to wobble around a lot.

So, with that said, when it comes time to servicing or even adjusting your front wheel bearings because maybe you just have a little bit of noise, you're gonna wanna make sure that you do it right, and you're gonna wanna make sure that you double-check it within the first couple of 100 miles. And whether you're servicing the bearings or even replacing the bearings, it's always a great idea to make sure you use new grease and you always need to replace the seal. Okay, friends. So, that's pretty much everything I've got for the top problems on this particular vehicle. Every vehicle has an issue, otherwise, I probably wouldn't have a job. With that said, I hope you learned a little something in the video. If you did and you wanna talk about it, leave it in the comments section below because I always love to hear from you. If you like the video, smash on that like button for me. It would mean the world. While you're at it, why don't you go ahead and subscribe and ring the bell, that way you can be kept up with all of our latest content. Thanks.

Check Engine Light Why the Gas Cap is a Common Cause

Check engine light came on right after a fill up? Check out this 1A Auto video too see some of the causes of this common trouble code.

Go To Top

Same Day Shipping

Need your part faster? Choose expedited shipping at checkout.

Guaranteed To Fit

Highest quality, direct fit replacement auto parts enforced to the strictest product standards.

USA Customer Support

Exceeding customers' expectations, our team of passionate auto enthusiasts are here to help.

Instructional Video Library

Thousands of how-to auto repair videos to guide you step-by-step through your repair.